Lawrence police officer Angel Lopez talks about how he uses an iPad in his cruiser. Justin Crow, also pictured, the department's facilities manager, installed the iPads recently.

LAWRENCE — Maybe you watch movies, read books or play games on yours, but Lawrence police are using their new Apple iPads to fight crime.

Police cruisers have been armed with iPad tablet computers which were purchased with a $65,000 federal grant, said Acting Police Chief James Fitzpatrick.

Last week the wisdom of the move was evident quickly: Just two hours after an iPad was installed in Officer Angel Lopez’s cruiser, he arrested three juveniles he located in a stolen mini-van at Broadway and Park streets.

“We had results right away,” Fitzpatrick said.

The department was able to purchase 35 iPads using the grant money, he said.

The iPads replace Toughbook laptop computers in the cruisers, which officers said were bigger and ran more slowly. The iPads have 4G technology, which allows officers to see a running list of calls on each shift, run plates, check licenses, take pictures and even write reports.

Separate keyboards were purchased for the iPads, which makes typing on the tablet computer easier.

Justin Crow, the department’s facilities manager, and Officer Kevin Schiavone assembled mounting units for the iPads and then installed them in the cruisers. Fitzpatrick said their efforts were a huge cost-saving measure, as sending the cruisers out to have the iPads installed could have cost anywhere from $500 to $750 per car.

Police officers in Lowell and Boston also are using iPads and associated applications while on patrol and investigations.

The first arrests made using an iPad happened last Tuesday, July 29, when Lopez was on patrol just after 4 p.m. He was parked at Lawrence and Park streets facing north, when, using the iPad, he randomly queried a plate on a blue 2002 Chrysler Voyager.

The minivan came back as stolen out of Lawrence, Lopez said.

After learning this, Lopez immediately pulled behind the minivan, which had three people inside, and followed it. Meanwhile, he called the plate into dispatch to confirm the car as stolen, he said.

Lopez briefly followed the minivan, then activated his emergency lights and siren at Arlington and Broadway. Lopez said he gave numerous commands over his cruiser’s loud speaker, but the driver did not immediately shut off the minivan.

Police Sgt. Maurice Aguiler and Schiavone, now in the area as well, approached the car at gunpoint and “yelled out to place the vehicle in park and shut the vehicle’s engine down,” Lopez wrote in report.

The front-seat passenger, a 15-year-old boy, actually placed the minivan in park.

The boy, along with the 14-year-old female driver and another 15-year-old girl, all were arrested and charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle. The driver also was charged with resisting arrest and driving without a license.

The minivan had ignition damage, which often occurs with stolen cars, and damage to the sliding door and rear bumper, which may have occurred during an earlier hit-and-run accident, police said.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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